Douglas County refining emergency alert system

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County is refining an emergency alert system to better serve the public and let people know when something dangerous is happening near them.

It's the alert system that sends out Amber Alerts and weather notifications, and in the next year or so other alerts could be showing up on phones.

"I got anxious because it's in my backyard and it's so different when it's in your backyard... things like that," Tiffany Schiemann said.

About a week ago, police set up a perimeter in her neighborhood. Officers were looking for a suspect armed with a gun.

Neighborhood residents turned to Twitter for information on what was going on.

"The first thing I did was look at Twitter, the Omaha Scanner. We looked it up and we were scared because we were getting live updates," Schiemann said.

During the search, Omaha Scanner, a group of private citizens, tweeted out their support for a system to alert the public to when there's danger.

Douglas County already has a wireless emergency alert system, it's just not used often.

That's expected to change in 2019.

"We've talked about this at length, and situation where you have an active shooter, escapee, this type of thing... Those templates are in the works," Paul Johnson with Douglas County Emergency Management said.

He said they are working to refine the system so that it is more user friendly.

"I thin you will see it used more in the future. There are big changes coming to the system in 2019 that make it a much more useful product for law enforcement," Johnson said.

Papillion has their own alert system.

It was used at one point to alert residents of a suspect police were looking for who was running through yards.

"We are able to geo-target messages. If there is a police incident on your block that we want you to know about, we can circle a certain area and notify residents," Trenton Albers, the Papillion Communications Manager said.

The sending of alerts is at the discretion of the responding agency.